The social order of Gilead fails to completely convert its citizens because the programming of contemporary society will never successfully contaminate their deepest passions and most sincere desires. What is left of the original human being is that which lies deep within our soul, or whatever one may call that eternal spirit, which serves as mankind’s greatest power of impenetrable purity and innocence. This is proven by the natural rebellion to the social order of Gilead from the lower classes and from the higher positions such as a commander’s rank. The attempt to scrape clean all which makes a human being human and transform it into some artificial code of law is a vain attempt. Even generation after generation, when memories of free will becomes nonexistent, there will still be a natural rebellion and a resilient mark of one’s original lifetime.
Offred serves as a contemporary of modern society. She was a mother, and can remember well the life she took for granted before this nightmare, but even conditioned and intrusively programmed by the system she still recalls memories, experiences vague feelings of love, and has a potential for sentimental attachment. In the first paragraph she has a clear memory of the gymnasium as some resource of history that hosted dances and told stories of glorious basketball games. It is nostalgia, but also forlorn memories that she praises for their alien standards compared to her world. Where lies the unconditioned parchment is in her mind, her thoughts, and her memories of a world alive not so long ago, and this is what serves to satisfy the semi-conditioned palimpsest. She clearly nurtures aspects of her former life throughout the book in a hopeless and somewhat subliminal way but the mere fact that she nurtures them means she is not completely conditioned. Even with Nick she was developing at least a potential for romantic involvement, such a variable quite unacceptable to Gilead, which further establishes her unconditioned stand.
This theme can well be associated with those who in fact have experienced a life before their latter situation. Such people represent the most difficult generation to subject to this new conditioning for the older one is, the harder they find to let things go and learn new things, especially such consistent comforts such as human nature and standards of living. The first children born into this new system and born with its radical politics and fascist community will find it engraved in their memory and their nature, so perhaps any newborns do not qualify for the palimpsest theme for they are in no need of conditioning; they have nothing to be conditioned from.
The commander, who invites Offred up to play scrabble and later takes her to Jezebel’s, serves also as one with aspects of an original free lifetime engraved in his nature. Nick plays along and serves as a commuter between Offred and the commander but he also represents a semi-conditioned citizen. In fact, if one analyzed most of the characters in the book, they would find that there is no real person worthy enough to be called “purely conditioned”, for it is a ridiculous society which harbors rebellions that would be condoned by an outside interpreter living in a free world. Gilead’s social order is bleeding with representations of unpurified citizens who offer as a theme to Atwood a general palimpsest. The attempt to scrape clean the people is evident. For example, the status of clothing meant to demoralize and inspire procreation, but almost more evident than the attempt is the inability to obliterate all traces of the original lifestyle, apparent in every character and every bitter and sarcastic thought in Offred’s mind.
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